I know I said I’d be doing Fremantle but I forgot to do a Hawthorn review. We first start with what worked (hint – not the coaching handover), what didn’t work, remaining questions, and the solutions to those problems.
There’s an overwhelming feeling of goodwill in ‘We’re a Happy Team at Hawthorn’, a feeling that overcomes the slightly daggy vibe and makes it a top five club songs contender.
It is sung to the tune of ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’, from the 1904 Broadway musical Little Johnny Jones, Yankee Doodle being the name of the horse a patriotic jockey from the USA rides in the English Derby.
He doesn’t win, but the theme of a resolve to succeed against the odds may have helped make this the right choice for a club song.
This was a club whose best finish (by a long way) at the time it was written had been fifth. Across the entire decade leading up to the song’s instigation, Hawthorn had averaged second-last on the ladder.
This was not the hardened Hawks of latter years; this was a club that, until recently, had been known as the Mayblooms.
Jack O’Hagan is credited with writing the lyrics in 1956. He’d been approached by the club’s lawyer as O’Hagan had already shown great songwriting expertise with classics like ‘Along the Road to Gundagai’ and ‘Dog on the Tuckerbox’.
He was paid 25 guineas for the job – a lot in an era when the club wasn’t even able to pay their players the per-game allowance other clubs were – and donated it right away to the players’ end-of-season trip fund.
The next year, the club made their first finals appearance.
Lyrically, it has a perfect balance of strength and determination, but honest goodwill; it talks directly of teamwork, love for the club and a core desire to succeed.
I particularly like the line “riding the bumps with a grin”. To me, it suggests not just the on-field clashes between players, but the dedication of a supporter to wear the team colours proudly no matter how their club is faring.
In what is maybe its greatest strength, the song choice also leant itself perfectly to the 1972 recording that is used today.
In much the same way that ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ was a song tailor-made for the male chorus and brass arrangements, ‘We’re a Happy Team at Hawthorn’ skips along confidently.
With great harmonies, merry banjo work and what is close to the best trumpet breaks of them all, it’s nothing short of joyous.